"The Billionaire Raj" | India through the white man’s prism
With limited scope, Crabtree paints an India that only expands upon US-led western propaganda, asserts Proloy Pal
The exercise of reviewing this book has taught me an extremely hard lesson! Never ever read, review, buy or even touch a book which has been endorsed by the wrong person. When Millennium Post Books Editor Radhika Dutt showed me James Crabtree’s The Billionaire Raj, I found both the name and the subject instantly appealing and gave her a prompt ‘Yes’.
I also immediately got down to the business – yes, when you’re reviewing a book, it has to be business first and pleasure only incidentally – of reading the book, which obviously includes reading both its cover and the back cover.
On the cover, were two endorsements – the second one by British journalist Edward Luce, who has served as Financial Time South Asia bureau chief in New Delhi and written a book In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India; and the first one by India-born economist Jagdish Bhagwati, one of America’s favourite collaborators in its aggressive drive to conquer and subjugate the Indian economy and its people to serve the USA.
Bhagwati’s endorsement was an adequate warning that the book would not provide much thought. While its publishers claimed that it would help the reader understand the essence of the contemporary India story – one of the world’s highest number of billionaires living side-by-side with the world’s largest number of poor – what the reader actually gets is a work that is superficial, inadequate in analysis, lacking in both rigour and nuance, and, yes, written within the by now well touted intellectual framework whose raison d’ etre is to ensure the continuation of the US-led West’s domination and corollary exploitation of India and other countries of the global South.
The book takes, as given axioms, some of the bland assumptions and doctrines that have been consistently propagandised by the US-led West. It repeats the standard Western claim that the reason for India’s misery is a slow pace of “economic reforms”, which have allowed a 19th-century America-style crony capitalism to grow and flourish here in the 21st century. It also claims that it is this lack of “economic reforms” that is responsible for the abysmal quality of governance in our country.
The author also waxes eloquently about the alleged presence of a strong culture of democracy in India and goes on to add that this is in stark contrast to countries like Russia and Turkey. In fact, what he cannot hide despite the pretence of objectivity is a deep dislike for countries like Russia, Turkey and, yes, China, that challenge the grossly unequal world order dominated by the USA and its subordinate “allies” like Great Britain and France.
Equally clear is a tremendous fondness on Crabtree’s part for India, which he describes like so many other Westerners as a model of democracy and liberal values, a country “which now stands at the threshold of the kind of superpower status it will eventually achieve”. As for the erstwhile onslaught on liberalism, the author treats this lethal and undemocratic course of events as merely an aberration and not a decisive trend.
But what is most appalling of all is the British journalist-author’s comparison of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Crabtree describes all three as leaders who have successfully tapped into their people’s pent-up nationalist emotions to achieve political success.
Putin and Erdoğan certainly are nationalists. They have risked everything – their entire political careers and even their lives – to challenge the existing world order which is grossly unfair to their peoples. They have fought and continue to fight a relentless economic, political and, at times, military battles to thwart the US-led West’s hegemony and aggrandizing loot.
In contrast, Modi appears as a lackey of the USA and its “allies”. He has reduced India to the status of a vassal state of the USA.
Yes, the billionaires that Crabtree claims to describe do have a lot of power…. But that does not make India as a nation the “superpower”-in-waiting that the British author tries to mould his reader into believing it is.